Start by talking to your professor, librarian, and other experts in the field (graduate students, faculty, geographers, and other professionals). Email to set up an interview and ask how they conduct research or where they go to find information on your topic. You can also browse the K-State Research Exchange (K-REx) to find K-State faculty and alumni who have done research in your area of interest.
The internet is a first stop for most topic exploration. Check out the following sections for tips on exploring your topic online.
Research Process Worksheet
2-page worksheet from the book Learner-Centered Pedagogy with sections on choosing a topic, brainstorming search strategies, finding resources on your topic, and modifying your search.
Searching Reflection Questions
Additional questions for reflecting on your search process. These questions are training for more efficient searching.
Evaluating websites follows the same process as for other sources, but finding the information you need to make an assessment can be more challenging with websites. The following guidelines can help you decide if a website is a good choice for a source for your paper.
- Currency: A useful site is updated regularly and lets visitors know when content was published on the site. Can you tell when the site was last updated? Can you see when the content you need was added? Does the site show signs of not being maintained (broken links, out-of-date information, etc.)?
- Relevance: Think about the target audience for the site. Is it appropriate for you or your paper's audience?
- Authority: Look for an About Us link or something similar to learn about the site's creator. The more you know about the credentials and mission of a site's creators, as well as their sources of information, the better idea you will have about the site's quality.
- Accuracy: Does the site present references or links to the sources of information it presents? Can you locate these sources so that you can read and interpret the information yourself?
- Purpose: Consider the reason why the site was created. Can you detect any bias? Does the site use emotional language? Is the site trying to persuade you about something?
Google, Wikipedia, Google Scholar, and Library Databases
Wikipedia is your research baseline, it's the most common knowledge on your topic. For this assignment you'll need to find sources more specific than Wikipedia but it is a great place to start.
- Read the article.
- What other words/topics are relevant to your topic?
- What basic facts do you know about your topic?
- What references are cited?
- How old are they? Can you open/read them?
- Look at the Talk and View History tabs.
- Is there discussion about validity of arguments or sources?
YouTube is an excellent place to get to know a research topic (i.e., find background information). You might find interviews with scientists, researchers, and stakeholders or videos explaining processes and approaches to solutions related to your question.
Tips for searching YouTube:
- Search with the same keywords as as you would in Google or a database.
- If you find the experts (organization, research institute, or people) on Google or Wikipedia, search their names on YouTube - they may have published videos about their work.
- If you find one relevant video on YouTube, click the publisher's link under the video to see if they have more. On each publisher's YouTube home page you will find a menu above the video listing:
- Videos - videos by this publisher.
- Playlists - videos by this publisher grouped by themes selected by the publisher.
- Channels - video collections curated by this publisher.
- Discussion - some publishers allow general comments or host discussions on their pages.
- About - information sometimes provided by the publisher (you might find a link to their website or social media feeds). This is a good place to look when evaluating a resource.
- From the publisher's page YouTube also recommends Related channels (to the right of the video, pictured above).
- As with a Wikipedia article, you will need the source behind the video so check out the credits, information below the video, and comments for references.
- If you can't find a reference for information in the video
- see if you can find it by searching Google,
- post a comment (other viewers might know more), or
- contact the publisher.
Depending on the product and audience of your research, a YouTube video might be a legitimate resource. Don't forget to cite it! Open the APA or MLA citation styles link and search for YouTube using "ctrl + f" or "command f" (Mac).